Complex | Music

Talib Kweli | Bold Moves Series

Transcript Icon
Talib Kweli:

I became interested in Hip Hop just being a product of New York City. It's part of the fabric of our city. And if you grew up here, this is in you. Brooklyn New York is equally responsible for raising me, like my parents are, it's one of my chief influences in my sound. I got interested in doing it for a living when I was a teenager. It became my number one hobby. I knew early that I wanted my hobby, or what I really loved, to be what I wanted to do for a living. When I first came to the game, I only cared about lyrics and other emcees and other artists respecting what I did. But then it becomes your career and you have to make a living at it, so you have to start paying attention to the business.

Marc Ecko:

It's clear he understands the business of art and kind of the art of business. It's one of the reasons, I think, he's still around and relevant.

Reggie Osse:

I first heard about Talib around the time that he and Mos Def released their "Black Star" album. I'm partial to Brooklyn MCs, so I think his impact in terms of pushing Brooklyn so much more to the forefront, to where it is today, is definitely very important.

Talib Kweli:

Well, as far as what I do, hip-hop wise, music wise, as an MC, I'm a master of ceremony. Without the ceremony, there's nothing to master. So, the whole essence of MC-ing is being on stage relating to the crowd and drawing off the energy of the crowd. Everything else is just a carbon copy. You try to put it on a CD, an MP3, make a video, it's just trying to capture the essence of what MC-ing is, which is being there in the flesh with the crowd. One of the most memorable experiences of truly MC-ing is going down to occupy Wall Street. I wasn't planning on speaking or anything. I just wanted to visit but I actually intro'd my album with what I said down there. We adapted to this culture, but this culture we had to learn. Came about as natural as a perm on a pachyderm. These fascists have had to turn. We passing them German burners, them Lugers, the next shooters. Waiting for Superman, they get nothing but Lex Luther. That was memorable because that was me drawing on my activist background and my MC background at the same time, and being able to participate in something. It was way bigger than just a concert.

Marc Ecko:

He's cut from like, that real, vintage, New York City, MC thing. He's been a real artist's artist, in the sense that he stuck to his foundation, what's core to his values. He's always been challenging, both sonically, lyrically, and very influential in that regard.

Talib Kweli:

To me, real hip-hop is a honest expression. It's not based on your region, your emotion, whether or not you sound old school or new school. It's not based on any of that. It's whether or not you're honest in your craft.

Reggie Osse:

He gets it, he's not trying to draw any lines between what is real rap, what is conscious rap, he's a conscious rapper but he's not trying to alienate himself from the general rap community.

Talib Kweli:

I was doing a radio show yesterday and the DJ mentioned that records like "The Blast" that I had weren't club records. They weren't but they were big in the clubs and you could still play them in the club, on like a throwback set, because they were honest records. So I think, in the studio you just have to be honest. I'm not worried about how I appeal to people, what people think, but I just strive to be as honest as I can with my art and my creation. I feel like the closer I get to that, just by nature it's organic that people start rocking with you.

Reggie Osse:

I love the fact that as a quote-unquote "backpack underground rapper" someone like Jay-Z acknowledges him as one of the greats. His impact is undeniable as the culture of hip-hop in Brooklyn continues to grow beyond the boundaries of Brooklyn.

Talib Kweli:

How has the industry changed? The industry has changed because it doesn't exist. It's collapsed upon itself. The only artists people are excited about are artists who approach it from an independent standpoint because the record business doesn't take any chances. There's no more gambles. They don't spend any money on you as a artist unless you do it yourself, unless you get your numbers up on social networks. I've always had a fan base on the internet but, certainly, when I started participating in dialogue and engaging with those fans, it's been a boom to my career and it's been something that's been helpful. Especially as the music industry has collapsed because, you don't have any other way to connect with a fan unless you go out there and do it yourself.

Marc Ecko:

The thing about Kweli is he has a very unique voice. What he says matters. But Kwe is outspoken, thoughtful, provocative, bold.

Talib Kweli:

I think younger artists can give me some advice. I come to the internet with the benefit of a fan base. People who will go out and support me no matter what I do because of what I've already done. I can't imagine how hard it would be for someone just starting. Because you would just have to be super creative and you would have to be present on all platforms.

Reggie Osse:

He's used social media in a way to engage in dialogue, and he's always been out in front on that. Like when I first signed up for Twitter everyone said, "follow Kweli, follow Kweli." He waslike the first, really the first guy I followed.

Talib Kweli:

I've worked with all different artists. From all different genres, all different generations. I love music, period. I think it's foolish to limit yourself to one genre of music.

Reggie Osse:

I love that he's so outspoken on so many various topics and stays relevant. He's fearless, he's unapologetic about expressing his point of view and, I think that's really important and he's been a leader in that regard.

Talib Kweli:

I'm always an optimist. The current state of hip-hop is always great to me because there's always something new to discover. There's something that I haven't seen or heard and there's always some new music to create. So, I'm always excited about the current state of hip-hop. I have no regrets. I don't think you could live with regrets and I've had a blessed, blessed career. I'm still going and I have nothing to complain about.


Talib Kweli sheds some insight on his roots and talks about his music career with Complex TV.

  • Read More at Complex.com »
Use alternate embed code

Comments